Tensions in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, site of the Occupy Wall Street protest that has initiated solidarity movements across the United States and the world, simmered last night even after the owners of the private plaza agreed to postpone an attempt to clear it.
There were spontaneous celebrations as word spread among campers shortly after daybreak that the eviction threat had been lifted. But when a large contingent then headed towards Wall Street and the Stock Exchange chanting, "The people will never be defeated", they were met by police. Clashes led to at least ten arrests and one injury.
The number of protesters in the park had swelled overnight as union members and other sympathisers arrived, some from beyond New York, to show their solidarity. Among them was the rap mogul, Russell Simmons who, via Twitter, had told Mayor Michael Bloomberg, "I will pay for clean-up of Zuccotti Park to avoid confrontation".
Activists say 951 cities in 82 countries are targeted for co-ordinated protests this morning. In Zuccotti Park there was talk last night of a plan to occupy the Subway in New York, though details were scant. But in Denver, Colorado, police in riot gear stormed an encampment near the state capital before dawn. The demonstrators retreated willingly, repeatedly chanting "Peaceful" in face of the police action.
As the movement has gathered momentum in the US, sister protests sprang up on their streets of scores of cities. Among the largest are Occupy Boston, Occupy Houston and Occupy Los Angeles. Protesters are united in blaming corporate America and the financial institutions on Wall Street for the ever-widening gap between the very wealthy and everyone else. They call themselves the 99 per cent protesting the 1 per cent.
The private owners of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Office Properties, appear to have decided to back down from earlier statements that the plaza had become dangerous and unsanitary. The owners had been inundated by emails, including from many elected officials, urging them to reconsider.
Many of the New York protesters had originally responded to the threat by taking up brooms, scrubbing brushes and buckets of soapy water to begin washing the park themselves.
But even as they did so, some suspected that claims about unsanitary conditions were a pretext for the company and by the city authorities to get them out of the space and not let them back.Reuse content